When my wife and I moved back to Springfield in 2009, I was in a dark place. I was feeling defeated, having to move away from a place that we loved back to a place we had already left. This also left me feeling very constrained. I had just acquired an interest in food and drink but I had little money to explore the fine things that life has to offer and no one to share my love of those things with. But then I stumbled into the Coffee Ethic one day.
The man behind the counter commented on my leather bag and then ran up the stairs to fetch his own by the same make. We chatted about how we came to be in possession of such nice bags and how it was a privilege to be able to carry something so well made around with us. Subsequent visits to the Ethic provided more conversations about nice things in life: about good coffee, good wine, good food, and about having a family. While I sat at the bar we’d try and make sense of what was left of our faith and we’d dream about what downtown Springfield could be. He’d humor my ridiculous ideas about pizza joints, homebrew shops, and butcher counters while I’d listen to him talk about creating a community around coffee.
We eventually added good beer to the list of things we’d talk about. We’d often go to beer tastings at the Wine Center or host our own at my house with spoils from recent travels. I’d get so upset at Tom and my guests for taking pictures of their food and drink instead of eating and imbibing and Tom would remind me not take things so seriously. We started grabbing beers together a few times a week and before I knew it I had a very important friendship on my hands and a love for the town of Springfield.
Tom and I played on a bocce team together a few times and we would fantasize about a life in which we were old men playing the game behind some cafe that he owned, drinking wine all day. For a long time there was a standing lunch date, every Thursday, along with Dante and eventually a few others. We started off by exploring the restaurants of the city until we settled into what ended up being our regular places. On those lunches we’d often take advantage of being self employed by taking two to three hours to eat. And, of course, we’d wash things down with a midday beer or two.
He was also that friend of mine that had a truck. He helped me move into my house. He helped pick up furniture that my wife had bought. He took the time out of his day to drive out to Ash Grove and pick up a vintage fridge to support my idea of turning it into a meat curing cabinet—something I still haven’t done. He gave my wife a job and, I suspect, kept that less-than-lucrative satellite cafe open so our family would have some extra income before our daughter was born.
Tom was extremely supportive of me and my career. He would always be sure to take his pictures with Hipstamatic and was the only one of my friends here in Springfield that used Oggl with any regularity—both are two products that I hand in making. He even sported the Hipstamatic case that made your phone look like a camera for much longer than I did myself. When I came out with my coffee app, Bloom, he told his friends in the industry about it, and even pushed it to customers of the Ethic. When I went out on my own, Tom was there to hear my terrified ramblings about being a new business owner and was always ready with sage advice.
For reasons that escape me right now, we grew apart. Maybe we were both too busy. Maybe we both changed. Coincidentally or perhaps partly because of our waning relationship I sunk back into a dark place. What ever was the cause of the crevice that formed between us the effect was that I kept driving him away and then did not have him around to help me figure things out anymore. And now that Tom was unfairly taken from us all this past Saturday I’m kicking myself for letting my grip loosen on that friendship. While I’m thankful that Tom, having taught me so much already, gave me one final lesson about the importance of being gracious and accepting, I cannot believe the cost of it.
Goodbye Tom. Thank you for all of the conversations over the years. Thank you for being a friend when I needed it. I appreciate you more than I ever told you.